[“St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre,” is used as a local expression in the text.]
By Sergey Vysotskyi
27.01.2014 16:43, LIGABusinessInform
Police truncheons and bats that beat people last night in Zaporizhya and Dnepropetrovsk split prospects for the Party of Regions and Yanukovych in these cities
It would take too long to describe all the negotiating traps that Viktor Yanukovych and Andrey Klyuev prepared for the opposition. However, on the background of tonight’s events in the central and eastern regions of the country this political bargaining is becoming pointless. Tonight police, with the aid of unknown fighters in civilian clothing, acted especially cruelly, dispersing protesters attending rallies in Zaporizhya, Dnepropetrovsk, Cherkasy, and onwards over the Sumy regional state administration. The photos of this “massacre” have been spreading on the Internet and on television with tremendous effect – which may be compared to the effect of the student beatings in Kyiv on September 30. The only difference is that the Eastern Ukraine has its own “11/30” now.
From the objective standpoint, it should be mentioned that Maidan is not widely popular among the residents of Zaporizhya and Dnepropetrovsk, at least. There is no social basis for occupying regional state administrations there. Rallies might be fed by the regional business groups that compete with the state, but there will be no hundreds of thousands of protesters on the streets of these cities. Therefore, it is impossible to reasonably explain the conduct of the local authorities in Zaporozhya and Dnepropetrovsk. Because, no matter what, “massacres” of hundreds or thousands of protesters and night hunting of activists creates power conflict in eastern Ukraine.
Yet before Maidan and revolution (because what is happening now is a real revolution) analysts and experts paid attention to the actions of the regime in its key regions. Criticising social and economic policy of Yanukovych and ‘regionals’, experts noted that redistribution of property, limitation of rights and liberties of enterprises, pressure on local ‘elite’ happened in the East of Ukraine. Dnepropetrovsk and Zaporizhya were the most demonstrative points of conflicts in this regard, since quite diversified financial and industrial elite traditionally existed in this region. One should understand that it has never solely supported the regime or the opposition. On the contrary, the residents of Dnepropetrovsk and Zaporizhya have always been ready to cooperate with everyone who defends their rights at the central level – either the regime, or the opposition, or a third power. Without getting into details, at the barricades in Dnepropetrovsk there were representatives of the Kryvorozhskyi group headed by Aleksander Vilkul opposed to the coalition of businessmen oriented at the group titled as “Privat group” for convenience. In Zaporizhya a mixed confederation of local businessmen, including people from the Party of Regions, gathered against the vertical of viewers.
It is true that there are no oppositional political structures in Eastern Ukraine. However, there are structures which are actually able to finance and organize protests – the structures of the same local FIG. It is hard to believe that rallies of five – ten thousand people in Zaporizhya and Dnepropetrovsk could have been held without secret support of the local elite. Now, after the bloody dispersal of last night, the rivals of the regime who could not effectively oppose the vertical via Kyiv have a real trump card in their hands – people’s outrage.
How far will that outrage go, will it become a revolt? In the author’s opinion, it is unavoidable. Due to several reasons. The rating of the government in Zaporizhya and Dnepropetrovsk has dropped to the minimal values during the last years. There is no more confidence in the President. However, until yesterday the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine perceived the revolution in Kyiv as a fight of unsympathetic politicians from the opposition against the regime, not as a factor of its physical safety. Now the violence on the streets of Zaporizhya and Dnepropetrovsk will probably lead the East (not today, nor tomorrow, but in due course) to the same track on which the Western countries and Kyiv have already been moving: the fight is not for the opposition and its leaders but for the most basic civil rights. The tendency of the last months demonstrates clearly that it is the explosive mixture of violence and distrust of the authorities that provokes radicalization of the protests and its expansion. The more violence is used by the government that is not trusted, the broader and harder is the resistance. For the violence against protesters to look legitimately and legally from the citizens’ standpoint, the regime should have the trust of, at least, 50-60% of the population – like in Russia and Belarus. It means that Yanukovych should have a level of support similar to Vladimir Putin, which is not the case at all. Moreover, one should remember that the residents of Zaporizhya and Dnepropetrovsk, that is, fellows who have been beaten by the Donetsk power vertical which is a priori not less alien to these regions than to Lviv. And that means that the real unrest of people may be coordinated by the representatives of the local elite for common good – the breakup of the Donetsk monopoly on violence and state resources.
Today’s actions of the governors, regime-supporting fighters and police in Zaporizhya and Dnepropetrovsk have seriously undermined the prospects of the Party of Regions and its leader in the Easter part of the country.